Earlier this year, we decided to try an experiment: What would happen if we removed what seemed to be the number one barrier for screenwriters – money – to allow them the luxury of time to be creative? We wanted to give someone the jumpstart they needed to fulfill their screenwriting dreams. So, we put out the call to pay one deserving screenwriter’s bills, and thousands of you applied. SO many of you are deserving, but we could only choose one, and Zachary Rowell took home the prize: 3 months of paid time off to write a feature-length script. The catch? He didn’t get paid until he met monthly deadlines. He updated us all on his journey with weekly vlogs, snippets of his script, and screen captures of him writing and rewriting his screenplay “Stillwater Runs Deep.”
And so we’ve come to the end of the road. Or is it the beginning? Zachary Rowell sent me his 98-page feature script last night, one day ahead of schedule. It took 90 days to outline, write, and rewrite, and in my opinion, Zachary knocked it out of the park! What happens now? The script belongs to Zachary so he can do what he pleases with it, but we only hope someone who can make it come to life will see it when we post the full version to the public on January 8th.
Meanwhile, Zachary’s answering all of your burning questions below in his final blog. Sad day. I’m not crying. You’re crying!
Missed a vlog? You can catch up on the entire playlist here.
“Hello! And welcome back to the final vlog in this 90-day screenplay challenge. It’s hard to believe it’s over. It feels like just yesterday that I was starting. I figured we started in a car and we should end in the car.
My hair has grown from the first vlog. The other day I watched some of the earlier blogs, and I was like, woah, you know. I was like, woah.
So, for this final vlog, we decided to do a Q & A, and some of you were nice enough to send in some questions. So, I’m going to answer them, and hopefully, I’ll do it without rambling too much.
The first question is: How much time did I spend actually writing the script, versus rewriting or outlining. And this one, obviously, was a little different than most because I was on a time constraint and didn’t have as much time in the beginning to outline. So, outlining, to keep putting my fingers on the keyboard, was probably like a week or two of outlining. But, I had been thinking about the script for a year probably. So, you could say outlining a year, or you could say a week or two. That’s usually the case. I’ll think about something for a while before I actually start writing it. And I think that helps with the outline process because I’ve already figured out, oh, that will work, maybe the characters should be that instead, maybe they should live there, maybe that will happen, so I’m already thinking about these things in my head. And, I’ve kind of already changed things around and developed things in my head before I’ve actually started outlining. And then, actually writing would be ten weeks, I guess, two and a half months — two weeks of outlining, or a year, and then two weeks of rewriting, about that.
What was the hardest part of this challenge? Yeah, I think I kind of hinted at it in there. I think the timing of it, it being in the Thanksgiving – Christmas, and trying to juggle everything. Also, the vlogs have been difficult. As you can tell, I’m not much of a social person. I share my feelings better through text. So, me vocalizing things, and talking to a camera, and trying to formulate thoughts as I just talk without thinking about it first. I just form better sentences online and through writing than I do voice. Vocal. You see what I mean?! So, yeah, that was a hard part. Vlogs have been hard. And then also, just trying to juggle everything with the timing, and that kind of brings me to the next question which was …
… Could I have completed this challenge without SoCreate paying my bills and setting this 90-day time frame? And I don’t think that I could have, especially with the holiday season, with Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I was working a full-time job, and traveling, and visiting family, I don’t think I could have. I still did work. I have a part-time job, a freelance writer, and I have a long-term client, so I still do work for him. But a full-time job, like working eight hours a day, five days a week, no I didn’t do that. And I don’t believe that I could have finished this had I been forced to work 40 hours a week. You know, I guess if I had to, if there was a gun to my head, sure. But would it have been as good? Probably not, because it would have been rushed, in the middle of the night or something. And you know, I’ve had a lot of time to read over things in the script, and really think about the plot, and kind of just spend time with it even I’m not writing, necessarily, just free time in my head to think about the script and live in it. It might sound kind of L.A.-ey, I don’t know, hippiesh, it honestly helps. And if you’re stressed worrying about bills and worrying about work, then it definitely impacts you negatively. So, yeah, I don’t think I could have finished it in 90 days, and if I did, I don’t think it would have been as good as eh, not saying it’s great now, we’ll see, but I think it would have suffered.
So, next question. Thoughts when I won the sweepstakes? That’s a hard word. Sweepstakes. Thoughts I had when I won: I was obviously excited. I come from a quiet family, so I don’t often show my excitement like a normal person would. So, when they told me, I don’t know if they thought, wow, I thought he’d be more excited about winning $9,000. I don’t know if they were disappointed with my reaction. I tried to bring it out. My girlfriend’s family is big on Christmas and they celebrate with lots of gifts. When I was a kid, I didn’t have that. I was lucky to get like one toy and maybe like a scratch-off ticket in my stocking. But they do it big. I remember the first year, I must have had like ten gifts in front of me, and they would all open their presents and they’d be like, “oh my God! It’s exactly what I wanted!” And I struggle with that, even if it is something I really want. And, obviously, I’m appreciative of it, but it’s a struggle for me to bring that out and show it. I’m getting better at it, I think, and I think these vlogs are actually helping so maybe I’ll continue them, I don’t know. But yeah, I think, what was the question? I was excited. I was excited. That’s what I was feeling. I wasn’t really nervous. I was excited to share and talk to people and yeah, I was excited. So, that seemed genuine right? I was being genuine. I don’t know why I’m looking over here. I was being genuine and I was really excited. I know it comes across as I have like sarcasm sometimes, but I was really excited, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
Do I have any plans for the script after I release it? A person asked if I was planning on producing it myself. Um, no, I would love to, but I don’t think I have the expertise for that, as far as a big feature film, or you know, it’s indie, it’s an indie type film, but I don’t have the expertise to do that. I do plan on filming and writing a short series on YouTube just to get something out there and actually have something to show people. So I do plan on doing that. But as far as this feature, I hope people want to help. I hope someone comes along and they really like it, and you know we’ll see what happens. I plan on entering it into competitions with the money that I got from SoCreate – some of the money, so I’ll enter it in competitions, and I’ll send it to the few connections that I do have. And then obviously, I’ll send it out to all of you. And then you know hopefully someone connects with it. I think it’s a fun script. I had a lot of fun writing it. And I would love to see it come to life, so, hopefully, that happens. It’s always a longshot, especially since I don’t have anything produced yet. But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.
Next question. I answered that. I answered that. Two more questions I think. My motivation to keep writing? Hmm. I think the fact that I’ll never be satisfied in life until I see my words come to life, and until I see something I worked hard on and wrote on like the big screen or a TV, yeah, I don’t think I’ll be satisfied until that happens. And you know, also, I don’t know if you should mix motivation and the fear of failure. I don’t know if those things should be intertwined. But, that is also part of it. A lot of people know that I want to be a screenwriter. People back home, obviously, since I moved from Texas to LA, they know I want to be a screenwriter. It’s all I’ve talked about for the past few years. People back home, they’ll ask me, hey, how’s it going, anything’s happened? And, obviously, you guys know I want to be a screenwriter, so I think the fear of failure, and you know, like 20 years goes by and nothing happened. That would be hard to swallow. But I don’t know if that should be mixed in with motivation. I think motivation should come from a healthier place than that. I think you don’t need a lot of motivation if what you’re working on is enjoyable to you. The first half of 2019, I really struggled. I was in a bad headspace. And then, I started working on video rental, and I just had so much fun writing. It was like I was writing again for the first time and I fell in love with writing all over again. And I think that’s because I really liked what I was writing about and the style. So, I think if you really like what you’re writing and you’re having fun doing it, I think the motivation just comes along with it. And you’re like, I want to get this done, I want someone to snatch this up, you know? So, yeah.
Next question: Getting started. Which, you know again, it kind of goes in with that. If you’re having trouble getting started, I think you should look at what you’re writing. Sometimes people will focus on what’s marketable. What does the market want right now? Should I write a small budget horror film? Those are easiest to get made, right? Maybe I should focus on that. I’ve had that thought. But you know, I don’t have an idea in that space that really excites me at the moment, so why would I force myself to write about it? So, focus on things that excite you, and don’t worry about marketing it or if people will want to watch it. I mean, your first script, your second script, your third script, it’s not like they get made anyways, so just focus on what energizes you and what keeps you motivated to write.
So have fun with your script. Have fun in life. Worry less. That’s a big thing for me in 2020. I want to worry less. I worry too much. So, yeah, have fun with it. Write about something that keeps you entertained, something that you would want to watch, something that makes you laugh, something that makes you cry, something you’re personally connected with. And I think the motivation, I don’t think it will be hard to get started then. I think you’ll want to get started. Just find that idea and roll with it.
I think that ends the vlogs. It’s a sad day. I actually enjoyed doing these, and maybe I’ll continue on my own channel if there’s enough interest, or even if there’s not. Maybe it’s a good way to keep myself accountable. Hold myself accountable. Whatever works, I don’t know.
Thank you all for following along. I hope you enjoy the script. And thank you, obviously, to SoCreate for giving me this opportunity. It’s been a blast. Bye.” - Screenwriter Zachary Rowell, winner of SoCreate’s “So, Write Your Bills Away” Sweepstakes